Which MAC School Produces The Best NFL Talent?

BY SHAEMUS KREIDER | Ball State Sports Link

College Football is the birthplace for most of the National Football League’s talent.

As of 2015, over 80 percent of NFL players played for an NCAA Division I football team.

At Ball State, we remember guys like Willie Snead, Blaine Bishop and current defensive line coach Keith McKenzie for their contributions to the Cardinals and the NFL. Let’s take a look at how Ball State stacks up against the rest of the Mid-American Conference.

12. Ohio Bobcats
5 Pro Bowls, 0 First Team All-Pro Selections
Best Players: P Dave Zastudil, LB Vince Costello

A total of 38 players have been drafted into the league from the Bobcats, but not much has happened to the 38 once they have reached a payday.

Two punters — Dave Zastudil and Dave Green — and three other defensive players are the only starting NFL players to come out of Ohio University. 

 11. Buffalo Bulls
4 Pro Bowls, 4 First Team All-Pro Selections
Best Players: OLB Khalil Mack, DE Gerry Philbin

Buffalo’s graduates are similar to Ohio in their lack of NFL production, but the Bison football program seems to be on the up-and-up.

Khalil Mack recently became the school’s first, 1st-round draft pick in team history, and he’s enough of a talent to vault Buffalo out of the bottom spot.

10. Eastern Michigan Eagles
2 Pro Bowls, 0 First Team All-Pro Selections

Best Players: OT TJ Lang, WR Kevin Walter

The Eagles have been amazing at creating mediocre NFL starters.

Over 15 former Eagles have been starters in the NFL, like former 2nd-round draft pick, QB Charlie Batch, but only two players out of Ypsilanti have been to a Pro Bowl. 

9. Akron Zips
6 Pro Bowls, 3 First Team All-Pro Selections
Best Players: DE Jason Taylor, DB Dwight Smith

At No. 9 we find our first Hall of Famer, defensive end Jason Taylor.

Taylor played for the Zips’ football and basketball teams from 1993-1996.

He was drafted in the third round by the Dolphins in 1997 and after 139.5 career sacks, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

8. Northern Illinois Huskies
6 Pro Bowls, 2 First Team All-Pro Selections
Best Players: OT Doug Free, OT Doug Diem, RB Michael Turner

The Huskies have not been the best at creating superstars, but they have produced Cowboys starting offensive tackle Doug Free and 10-year Colts offensive lineman Ryan Diem.

Their most recent Pro Bowler came in 2008, when running back Michael Turner ran for nearly 1,700 yards as an Atlanta Falcon.

7. Ball State Cardinals
7 Pro Bowls, 0 First Team All-Pro Selections
Best Players: WR Willie Snead, DB Blaine Bishop, P Brad Maynard

A Ball State graduate has never been First-Team All-Pro, but the sheer amount of Cardinals in the NFL gives BSU the No. 7 spot on this list.

There are 14 former Cardinals who have been starters in the NFL, including Blaine Bishop and Willie Snead.

Bishop was a eight-year starter for the Oilers/Titans franchise at strong safety. Snead is quickly becoming one of Drew Brees’ favorite target in New Orleans. Snead has over 750 receiving yards in each of his first two years of pro football.

6. Miami University Redhawks
6 Pro Bowls, 0 First Team All-Pro Selections
Best Players: QB Ben Roethlisberger, LB Bob Babich

Miami gets to No. 6 on this list due to Big Ben.

He’s started at least 11 games for the Steelers since he entered the league in 2004, and he’s most likely going to Canton for his almost 50,000 career passing yards.

5. Toledo Rockets
14 Pro Bowls, 9 First Team All-Pro Selections
Best Players: DB Emlen Tunnell, DE Brent Williams

Defensive back Emlen Tunnell was a master of interceptions. In his 13-year pro career (1948-1961), Emlen intercepted 79 passes — second all-time.

A more recent NFL player out of Toledo was defensive end Brent Williams. He was a starter for New England for six seasons from 1986-1991.

4. Bowling Green Falcons
16 Pro Bowls, 0 First Team All-Pro Selections
Best Players: OL Doug Smith, LB Phil Villapiano

Bowling Green, while not having a graduate reach the heights of being a First Team All-Pro, has had tons of pro-bowlers. Most of these came in the era of disco, however.

3. Western Michigan Broncos
14 Pro Bowls, 1 First Team All-Pro Selections
Best Players: WR Greg Jennings, LB John Offerdahl

The pride of Kalamazoo has been at the top of the MAC for a couple of years now, but there have been many strong products before PJ Fleck.

One of the best wide receivers in Packer history, Greg Jennings caught 64 TDs in the NFL before his retirement in 2015.

John Offerdahl was a huge inside linebacker in the eighties and nineties. He was selected to five Pro Bowls in only seven professional seasons.

2. Central Michigan Chippewas
15 Pro Bowls, 7 First Team All-Pro Selections
Best Players: DE J.J. Watt, WR Antonio Brown

Central Michigan has been the birthplace of a couple of the NFL’s most famous players.

Antonio Brown tore up the MAC to a tune of 3,199 yards in three seasons before emerging as Ben Roethlisberger’s favorite target in Pittsburgh.

J.J. Watt also was a Chippewa, albeit for one season. He was a tight end for his freshman year, but transferred to Wisconsin to get a chance to play defense. It turned out he was pretty good at that.

1. Kent State Golden Flashes
25 Pro Bowls, 12 First Team All-Pro Selections
Best Players: TE Antonio Gates, LB James Harrison, WR Julian Edelman

Kent State grads are unrivaled in their NFL talent. They have one Hall of Famer in history, linebacker Jack Lambert. 

Lambert was arguably the best linebacker in the NFL during the late 70s, but the Golden Flashes have many more NFL contributions.

Kent State alums include Patriots wideout Julian Edelman, who was a dual-threat QB for the Golden Flashes from 2005-2008, and future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates.  

Gates has caught 112 TDs in his illustrious career, an NFL record for tight ends.


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